The result did not come as a surprise to jittery Tory backbenchers, who saw the warning signs when the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens made unexpected gains at last month’s local elections in parts of Oxfordshire, Surrey, Kent, West Sussex and Cambridgeshire. These Tories believe their party’s “southern discomfort”, a label traditionally attached to Labour, is due to Boris Johnson’s relentless showering of attention and money on the red wall in the North and Midlands. Ironically, the Tories now face the mirror image of Labour’s red wall problem, being accused of “neglecting” areas that feel “left behind”.
Johnson is reaping what he sowed. His ministers announce new projects and resources for the red wall every week. Although they deny the charge of US-style pork barrel politics, this investment is skewed towards Tory-held seats. While it wasn’t the only factor, a perception that voting Tory would “bring money to our town” played a part in the Tories’ highly symbolic victory in last month’s Hartlepool by-election.
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